How to Have an Existential Crisis

Opinions, belief systems, and worldviews are beneficial. They help us have a sense of identity and give us a way to interpret information we encounter in the world around us. However, sometimes it is also beneficial to question our point of view–it can be a beautiful thing to be curious, to search, and to accept that we don’t have all the answers.

If we have a very firm standpoint about an aspect of our way of life, I am not suggesting that we give it up but rather ponder why we came to these conclusions and if there is evidence that supports other possibilities.

Sometimes we might feel like if we don’t have a firm grasp on our own beliefs and practices we will be looked down upon, and therefore we may cling tightly and speak tenaciously in order to protect ourselves. But maybe, instead, it might be helpful to view “not knowing” as the start of an adventure. What if, rather than being ashamed that we don’t have an answer to a question, we were eager to find out?!

Though it seems no one really wants to have an existential crisis, if processed in a healthy way, it might actually turn out to be a good thing. And maybe if the idea spreads that questioning can be a good thing when it leads to growth, people may start wondering how they can have an existential crisis of their very own. Sort of kidding, sort of not.

A note on debating your way to the truth:

People commonly use debate as a tactic to communicate information they find important, and feel strongly about. While debate can sometimes be fun (for those who enjoy debate) (also, I don’t mean arguing, arguing is totally different) it is not really the MOST effective way to convince somebody of your viewpoint (although it sometimes can be effective). In my experience, people usually come away from fiery debate more convinced of the viewpoint they had in the first place. There is supposedly research to support this theory but I haven’t taken the time to look at empirical, peer-reviewed articles so maybe don’t take my word for this.

Also, I once heard a hypothesis that sometimes the people who dispute the loudest are really trying to convince THEMSELVES that their belief is the truth. This sounds exhausting for both the speaker and the audience (opinion alert).

Okay, sorry, my point is, maybe it would be less stressful at times to approach life as gentle inquisitors, rather than tenacious believers. Being a tenacious believer can also be beneficial at times, but in order to have an accurate and healthy understanding of what is true we need to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

This is the first in a series of Good Practice pieces that are revolved around ideas involving self-reflection and observation of our surroundings. These articles are a part of a project called “The Enthusiastic Agnostic”; the objective of this project is to explore important issues in spirituality and science, and create awareness about them, you know, for fun. I also create Youtube videos for this project, which you can find here.

Image courtesy of Lauren Larsen 16thandmarket